West Ham v Sheffield United: Paul Heckingbottom's perverse pleasure amid Blades' painful run - and inspiration from David Moyes

IF PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM requires a spot of hope at the end of another hard week, he could do a lot worse than look across to his opposite number in the dug-out today in David Moyes.

As recently as early April, the footballing grapevine was awash with suggestions that the West Ham manager was on borrowed time after a 5-1 home loss to Newcastle United - which left the Hammers out of the relegation zone only on goal difference.

Moyes - and more especially his team - closed ranks and battened down the hatches. They ended the season comfortably above the drop zone in 14th spot, with a Europa League final win over Fiorentina representing a sizable cherry on the cake.

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Ahead of this weekend's action, the visitors face a Hammers side well positioned in seventh place and while Moyes's upturn is not particularly good news in the here and now for Heckingbottom, it provides food for thought.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Out of adversity comes strength, occasionally. This time it is the Sheffield United chief and not Moyes who must summon up a reaction following a far more desperate home loss to Newcastle.

A humiliating club record league defeat, no less.

Heckingbottom, whose side are winless from six top-flight games this term and have registered a solitary point, said: "It's what the job is - 100 per cent. The highs and lows, you cannot get away from them, it's constantly going to be one or the other.

"That's the nature of it. You cannot come into it and want to do the job and expect to win every week. In a perverse type of way, it's why you want to do it and why you are involved in it."

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On Moyes providing the perfect case example of how things can dramatically change relatively quickly, he continued: "Of course it does. I wish our targets were European trophies!

"We would have come a long way then, but we’ve got our own targets and it’s different to that.

"But they don’t change and our agenda for this season is not changing based on one result, so we’ll continue to work.

"At the minute, behind the scenes, yes we’re trying to improve things for the club in the long term.

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"We’ll continue doing that, but the window’s shut, so all our focus now is on the performance in these games until we’re in January again. That’s what we’ll do."

In his time at the club, Heckingbottom - and his players - have coped with plenty.

Stories regarding transfer embargoes and an endless spate of takeover speculation provided a distracting backdrop to events on the pitch for much of last season.

On it, the Blades boss had to contend with untimely injuries, a couple of difficult transfer windows, form dips and threats from Luton Town and Middlesbrough. It was a campaign which ended gloriously in promotion.

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This season has also had its privations, with the focus very much on Heckingbottom and his players this time around.

He is shrewd enough to accept that.

The former Leeds United and Barnsley head coach, who has also fielded speculation regarding his future in recent weeks, continued: "It’s a different challenge because the microscope is on us.

"That’s when you have to stand up.

"There are no excuses and no-one to blame for that performance last week.

"I think that’s the difference this time around. It’s on us to put it right."